Question: My husband and I live in Los Angeles and love New York. We travel there one or two times a year, sometimes with home exchanges, sometimes using HomeAway rentals. We’re retired now and would like to buy a pied-à-terre in Manhattan, preferably on a high floor on the Upper West or Upper East Sides. We have about $650,000 to spend. Should we sit on the money for a while, waiting to see if prices go down over the next year, or should we buy ASAP. Do you have any thoughts on when and where to purchase?

— Looking East

Dear Looking:

As I said in Part I, watch the stock market if you want to know the best time to buy a Manhattan apartment. Now, we’re going to look at where to buy to get the most housing bang for your Manhattan pied-à-terre buck.

But first, a few questions to consider:

  • Co-op or condo? It makes a difference, especially for part-timers. Not all co-op apartment buildings will look favorably on out-of-towners buying a second home; some buildings may not allow part-timers at all. Condos are usually less restrictive, but they tend to cost a lot more than co-ops.
  • Who will use the place? Just you and your husband? Do you have grown children who will want to visit New York, too? Grandchildren? And how long will you stay at a time? After a week or so, a studio might feel really cramped.
  • Do you want to rent the apartment out when you’re not using it? Again, most co-ops won’t allow subletting or severely restrict it. And New York has very strict laws governing Airbnb-style short-term rentals.
  • How do you plan to look after the place when you’re not there? Even a well-staffed building isn’t going to go into the apartment unless there’s a problem affecting your neighbors. So how will you check in on the place?

All those caveats raised aside, you’re focused on two of Manhattan’s tonier and expensive neighborhoods. But both have enclaves of relative affordability — Yorkville on the East Side and Manhattan Valley on the West Side. Slightly beyond those areas, you can find good deals in Midtown, Morningside Heights and Harlem.

Overall, I found more than 400 studios and one-bedrooms for under $700,000 on the Upper West and East Sides, Midtown and Harlem in staffed, elevator buildings that allow pied-a-terres.

At the top of the range, were places like this 12th floor UES condo studio or this top-floor one-bedroom in a UWS co-op with what the listing agent says are unusually flexible rules. There are about 200 one-bedroom listings in the $400,000-$600,000 range on the UWS and UES. At the low end, there are a few studios across Midtown in the $200,000s and $300,000s.

Good luck!

David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.

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